Third Quarter Interims are Here

No sooner do I write about the rhythms of school than we lose more time. So, even though we’ve lost a bunch of days this quarter, we’re still closing the books on schedule, March 28. Which means tomorrow I have to enter the interim grades for distribution on Wednesday. As I result, I’m becoming a bit of a number cruncher and the numbers are sad.

This has been an overall disappointing week for teachers as we grade and weep. After eight days in the library and the extended five day snow-induced weekend, the students turned in their essays. We scaled down the assignment after we watched the ninth graders struggle so all they had to do was find three sources, including one print source, to research a topic related to the Great Depression and how it connects to Harper Lee and her To Kill a Mockingbird. To me, this became a simple five paragraph research paper with the onus of adding a bibliography as we begin teaching them MLA formatting for writing and citations.

After all this time, the results are not what I had hoped for. Some did the research but never connected it to Lee. Some mentioned her in the intro and never got back to her. Some mixed their topics. Most never proofread their work so sentences make no sense or are mere fragments. Most left out the bibliography and those that included it missed the proper formatting. And of course there were a good percentage of students who turned nothing in.

Then there was the outright plagiarism. I keep teaching them about an author’s diction, the use of words and phrases that makes their voice distinct. So, when their ninth grade voices suddenly sound professorial, my spider-sense goes off. A few key strokes later, I find the source of their writing. Clearly, they haven’t figured out we actually read their words and can smell cheating. The zeroes were flying and based on the percentage plagiarized, four were written up for violating the school’s academic honesty policy.

So, tomorrow I will enter the interim grades and out of 92 ninth graders, 51 will receive an F.  Two will receive As, eight will earn Bs and a dozen will get a C. The remaining seventeen get Ds, mean 68 out of 92 are nowhere near their potential.

I had hoped after the second quarter grades my kids would get a wake-up call. No such luck it seems. Maybe they will come to love reading TKAM and their work will show it, we’ll see after tomorrow’s pop quiz.

My 11th graders, though have stepped up so out of 23, I have two As, five Bs, eight Cs, six Ds and only two Fs. That’s a far better showing.  We’re wrapping up the Autobiography of Fredrick Douglass and most seemed to enjoy it. My consulting teacher and I cotaught Friday’s lesson on Spirituals and that went over very well, so the entire week wasn’t a total loss.


  • Laurie Rozakis

    You say “68 out of 92 are nowhere near their potential.” Rather, perhaps they are. Remember that the average IQ is –by definition-100, which means that half of your students are below average. That’s plain math. Thus, for half the class to get below a C is not outrageous: it’s genetics. What’s the answer? Dumb down the curriculum and inflate the grades so that everyone has self-esteem? I deal with the after-effects of that in my freshman composition class. Keep giving real grades, Bob.

  • Hello Bob,

    In all sincerity, I urge you to go back to your roots. Yes, now you’re a classroom teacher. But previously, you were involved in the process of creating stories, legends, and extending myths. (Which you still read and comment upon, albeit in your “spare time”:)

    I mean, seek out and use those graphic novels currently in print that might capture your students’ attention and engagement.

    In 2012, Hill & Wang published a graphic history volume entitled “The Hammer and the Anvil: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America.” It can be a key component in a young person’s understanding of why they should care about Mr. Douglass and his story in the first place. I’m particularly partial to this book, as I produced it. But it kicks major butt, and effortlessly shows readers why Mr. Douglass was and remains an important part of our national heritage.

    In 1969, when I taught third grade for the first time, I was able to use comics to help reluctant readers create text for unscripted pages from an unpublished issue of Spider-Man. I used comics thereafter, whenever I could, for the remainder of my tenure with the NYC public school system.

    For much of the past decade, I have been creating graphic nonfiction for classroom use in the areas of history, science, civics, and business.

    There is no perfect substitute for parents taking preschool kids under wing and guiding them through the process of decoding written language. Kids who had no parental help with this will lag behind in reading and reading comprehension. Always. But they can catch up.

    Fortunately, there are now many graphic volumes that can be experienced and shared by adults—family members or teachers— with reluctant readers. Get the kid involved in the subject matter first. Then dive into a graphic volume together. Or, in the classroom, as a group.

    It will always be an uphill battle to get kids to reads who were not helped in this endeavor by adults before their sixth birthday. But graphic volumes do help.

    I learned to read through comic books, when I was five. Unaided. Good comics can do that:) Thank you, Carl Barks.


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